Monday, December 30, 2013

Waffles, Wine Cellars, and Serving Your Fellow Men

December 30, 2013
Sok szeretettel, köszöntelek benneteket ezen a blogomon, 
(Lots of love, and welcome to my blog)
The Eger Christmas Tree

This quote may be a tricky one for you, but let's see if any of you can get where it's from. Hint: it's not from a movie. 

'Sir, do you know that your drinking the new decaffinated coffee crystals?'
'You know, the decaffinated coffe crystals.'
'......Why you no good son of a butt *word replaced*. You tried to trick me!!!'
'Sir, tell us how you feel'
'.....aaaannnggrrryyyyy.' (His Mom thinks it’s from a SNL skit with Chris Farley.)

I know it sounds weird this quote, but if you know where it's from, I will be thoroughly impressed. :)

Blast! I can't believe it's already the end of the year! It feels like this year just started for me, no joke. Last year at this time I was serving with Elder Becker and I was only in my 5th transfer, meaning I only had 8 months done with my mission. A year later, I'm in my 15th transfer, have been out for almost 21 months and am on the last leg of my mission, having just had my last Skype session with my family. Holy cow! I never thought that it was going to come about this fast! There are so many crazy feelings and thoughts about all this. Let's not think about it for a while and just move on to other stuff.

It was so nice to see all of you for Christmas! It's weird almost every time to see how things have changed at home. I feel like this weird foreign kid that has a long lost family in the states. Ha ha, President Smith actually said in our weekly email this week 'I hope that your families remembered who you were!' Kind of chuckled seeing that. I cannot thank our investigators enough for having us over at their place to use their computer.
The awesome family that let us Skype for Christmas!
They are so kind! They loved meeting all of you and said that I have a really nice family (Isn't that cute!). Funny thing is, I didn't even tell you what I did that day for Christmas before I Skyped you all. So that means everyone else can enjoy it as well! Yip-skipidee-doo-da-hip-jippity-hooraaayyy!!! Right? Vágod? 

Ok, first off, we went over to the other elders and made waffles. Yes, waffles! They were so good! By the way, in Hungary they don't have maple syrup (sad, right?). So we had to make our own with cinnamon to replace the maple extract. It was still super good! We got super full off of the batch that we had. We then played some card games and Catan (hopefully all of you know what board game this is), in which I owned all, showing my more humble side, ha ha. Afterwards we went to the giant Catholic basillica that's in Eger which had some awesome artwork and paintings on the ceiling and walls.
On top of the castle
We also went to another Catholic church and toured around in it for a bit and went up to the castle and took some pictures around it.
View of the Basilica from the top of the castle
It was a super nice day as well! For the second time in a row it didn't snow on Christmas, neither was it cold. It was actually between 10-13 degrees celsius outside. We've heard from the Hungarians that it's going to be an abnormal winter here, warmer than usual, which means the more wintery part with snow will come later, resulting in a longer winter. They're not looking forward to it. I'm not to bummed, cause I'll be in the Californian spring around that time. :) *slaps himself* Enough of that, back to what I was talking about. The kewlest thing we got to go to on Christmas was this underground wine-cellar right beneath the basillica. It was pretty kewl.
Wine cellar below the Catholic Basilica
We learned a lot about wine and how it's made underneath the ground and stuff. It may not be the most fascinating thing in the world for being LDS, but it was still neat to see how people made it back in the day.
Wine cellar
Some extra knowledge for the brain. Plus it was all in Hungarian, so it added some words to our vocabulary. The day after Christmas we actually had a huge lunch! A member in the ward last Sunday gave us a huge bag of quality meat and we were like 'How are we going to use all this?' We came up with having a huge taco lunch for the 26th and it was AMAZING!!!!
The huge taco lunch.
Elder Gaytán, being the expert with tacos, taught us how to make some quality ones and they were some of the most delicious tacos I have ever tasted. Not saying that your tacos are bad mom, yours are still amazing. The only difference was that we havn't had any quality ones like we have back at home for a LOOONNNGG time. So it was a nice change for our taste buds, after having noodles and pasta every day for the last few weeks, ha ha. Needless to say, we were full afterwards.
Preview to stomach expansion....
I was about to explode by my last taco. Didn't even eat dinner that night. That's when you know it was a good meal. :)

On a more spiritual note, on Christmas Eve we held our weekly District meeting together. Since transfers 2 weeks ago I've been the new District Leader for our District, so I decided to do my training on Charity. But before I even got into my training, I had asked one of the other Elders to give a spiritual thought before I went into my training a few days before the meeting. He had no idea what I was going to be giving my training on and he gave a short thought about Charity! It gave me tingles! Before he shared the verses and thought that he had he said 'You know, I didn't know what I should share with you guys today, but I said a small prayer before I looked in the scriptures for what I wanted and as I read these verses, I felt like these were what I was supposed to talk about', and these verses were some of the ones that I was going to be using for my training. His spiritual message was just an assurance that Charity was what I was meant to talk about, because I didn't know what I should talk about either. I thought about it and said a little prayer to myself the days before and looked through my study journal a little bit and the stuff that I studied about Charity really stuck out to me and I felt that that was what I was meant to teach. I felt incredibly enlightened as well from all the info and thoughts that we included from the other missionaries in the District during the training. I felt like everyone was supposed to be there at that exact time and was each prepared from their own personal studies that they had had in the previous weeks for that meeting. I want to share some of the things that I included in my training because I feel like it is something that has been helping me to develop Charity in my life. Mainly, we talked about the blessings that come from Charity, which are a lot, and why Charity is important (for these parts I hope that you all will study the topic of Charity and find for yourselves what the blessings are and the importance of it in each of our lives). But the main topic I talked about was how to acquire Charity. So I came up with some tips for myself that I decided to share with the rest of the District. These are the steps I came up with. 

1. Pray for it
    'Charity is a gift from God' as quoted in Preach My Gospel. It made me think, how do we obtain gifts? Normally, at least most of the time, we ask for them. Of course there are circumstances where people, out of the kindness of their hearts, give us gifts without us even asking for it. But on most occasions we usually ask. After just having the Christmas season, I'm sure all parents have had their kids come up to them and ask 'Mommy, I really want a new race car!' or 'Daddy, can I get a pony?' I don't know about the pony one, that's a pretty big gift to give, but the example is what I'm going for. The point is, gifts are asked for. Moroni 7:48 explains why and how tremendously! If you break it down sentence by sentence, we see that in order to acquire Charity in our lives, we have to pray for it. And, if we ask, we shall receive. But, action needs to take place in order for anything to happen. That's when the next few steps come in to play.

2. Choose to Love
   It is up to us whether or not we want to be men and women who are trying to be like the Savior. We have to choose now to be like Him. Just with that, we need to start loving others. We can't get off our knees after praying for Charity and just say 'Well, that was a good prayer, hopefully God will give me Charity.' It doesn't work that way. Just like receiving a Christmas gift, we have to be doing the right things if we want to receive it. No wonder Santa tells us 'You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout....he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake', because he's not going to give us what we ask for if we aren't doing the right things! So, if we want to have Charity, we have to start loving others, start being kind and doing good will towards our fellowman. Also, if we read in the scriptures, we find that we are commanded, not just asked, to love one another as Christ did. Why would he make this a commandment? Because it brings blessings! It is a higher and better way of living! So start now! Don't procrastinate! That is the next step before we even start acting. We need to know that we want to change and want to love.

3. Service
    What greater way to express one's love than by serving is fellowman? We learn from King Benjamin many things about service. One of them being that even though he was a king, he labored with his people and not for worldly means. He says 'I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you... And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you...I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.' Incredible, right? He did it out of the kindness and love of his heart. He wanted to serve his fellowman because he loved them—not because he wanted recognition nor because he wanted to receive wealth, but because he wanted to say at the end of his life, not boastingly, that he has a clear conscience. We also learn from the Savior that this way of living is what brings the most happiness. Even He, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, who could have come to the Earth and have sought glory, came down to serve us, mere people! We read in Matthew 20 ' But whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister ; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.' 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' Why? Why would a King, the God of us all do this? Simply because He loved us. He served us, and is still serving us, because He loves each and every one of us. 

Some tips that I gave for service were actually some TNT principles that I learned while I was a part of the theater troupe. I want to thank TNT and how it has impacted my life with the principles and attributes I learned. Thank you LaRee, I don't know if you know it, but you have been teaching each of us how to be charitable people. Because the rules 'Making your partner look good' and 'Looking Outward and Upward' have always been the biggest things for me and have helped me greater understand what love really us. Make your partner look good! Those who you live with, those who you work around, make it your goal to make them look good, especially during the times when they may be making the biggest mistakes. Show your love for them as their spiritual brother or sister. They need you, even if they don't think it. And what will make this principle easier is if you are looking outward and upward. We have the two greatest commandments given to us 'Love God' and 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' or, in short, looking outwards and upwards. These small, simple principles are ways that can increase our desire to serve. There is no better feeling than giving. I love it! I'm going to miss that feeling so much when I come home. Knowing that every day is dedicated to the Lord as a devout servant will probably be my greatest sorrow when I return. But that doesn't mean that I'll stop when I'm home, and I hope that you all know that you don't need to be missionaries with a name tag to have each day dedicated towards serving your fellow siblings in this probationary period. Love them! Serve them! There is no greater thing than this.

And thus comes the last tip:

4. Understanding.
    'Seek to understand, then to be understood'. Many people will interpret this as first knowing a subject then teaching it after you understand it. True, that is one way we can look at it. But, why not think of it as with those whom you’re are always listening too or talking with. Understanding is crucial! Even though we can serve others and love all people without having to know all of them, it is when we do get to know someone that we need to listen and understand. It is then that we can act accordingly and serve them. 

I would like to talk more about the last tip, but I'm running short on time. No one needs to apply these things or follow these steps; these are only things that I have found that have helped me. But, that is why I am sharing them, because I know that they are things that have blessed my life and can also bless others. Charity is the most powerful thing in the world, more so than being the most wealthy man alive or greatest spokesman on the planet, 'if he hath not charity, he is nothing'. This is the goal, and it is worth everything. 

I love you all; I hope you have a wonderful New Years and 'Hold to the rod, the iron rod'. Don't forget to pray! 

Sincerely, az egész szívével (With my whole heart)
Magda Elder

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Zone Conference in Budapest

December 17, 2013
Greetings Friends and Family,

Alright Ya'll, here's another one for you this week! 

'Alright boys! Get ready to reap the fruits of our labors!'
'Roy, we just blew the crap out of our fruits!' 

'What I just say?'
'You just told them to take out their samurai swords and shave their butts!
'I said that?!?!'

These quotes are from different movies. Let's see if you can figure out where they're from! :D  (Blake’s mom thinks it’s funny that since they can’t watch movies they entertain themselves by quoting them.)

Alright, for this week all start off with some of the things that happened, and then answer your questions. I have a bit to say :) 
Friends from the Eger Branch

Yesterday we had a Christmas Zone Conference in Budapest like we did last year. We had some talks, trainings, lunch, games and carols that we sang also. It was really fun! I enjoyed this year’s conference a lot, especially some of the talks that were given. One of the ones I enjoyed was our Zone Leaders training. They talked about two of the Christ Like attributes from PMG (Preach My Gospel.  It’s the manual they use), which were humility and knowledge. We talked about how humility and knowledge are inter-twined and that both were needed in order for them to be developed. Teachability is how we can gain knowledge,  and was one of the things that we talked about. Also, I was able to bring up ethos-pathos-logos during the training (probably one of the favorite things that I can remember from studying back at home). It was such a spiritual feast for me! I loved being able to gain such knowledge from it. 

The Sister Training Leaders also gave a good training on faith and patience and how they are inter-connected as well. It was really kewl how they explained it. They had my companion stand up in front of everyone and had him stick his arms out for 20 minutes and explain that at the end he will get something. At first he was like 'Alright, I got this! This is easy!' But after 5-10 minutes his arms started to fall and get heavy. The sisters then sent some elders to help him for a minute or so, and then had them leave. Then, we started talking about how we can ask for help and strength during the trial of our faith. Finally he was able to last through it all, with a lot of struggles, and completed the challenge! I don't know if he thought anything of it, but I really got a lot out of it. Because sometimes when we start something, for example a mission, we may be super excited for it at the beginning. We're pumped and we tell God 'I can do this. No worries, I can handle it.' But as we start it and go into it, there may be some point, whether it be at the very start, or the middle or towards the end, there will be trials or struggles, and sometimes we start to lose our strength; we doubt, fear and panic that it's all over and that we can't bear it.

Sometimes, though, the Lord sends us helpers, even when we don't ask for it, to show us the way or to guide us towards that knowledge that we can do it. Or, even better yet, they help us to realize that we should be humble and ask for help. It is then, when we get on our knees and pray for strength and guidance that we are blessed with the power that we need to overcome the trial, and push through. It may not be the strength that we were looking for, but it will be enough in the sight of God so that we can master ourselves and increase our faith and patience. This mission is blasted hard. It is overwhelming at times in many different aspects! But how I have learned to humble myself; to become teachable, and know that the Lord is shaping me and that if I ask with faith then the Lord will lovingly be there by my side.  And so it goes for any trial/challenge/calling/job/obstacle that we, either take upon us or are given. I've learned so much in relation to this while I've been here, and I'm sure that I will have even more to learn when I am at home, but I am so glad that I have a knowledge of it; Our Heavenly Father does love is, sincerely and with all of His heart. I hope that all of you know that. 

Ok then, now for some of the questions that were put up

1.       Who was the youngest person you taught/or talked to about the gospel?
The Youngest person I taught was 8 years old. In Pécs we were re-activating a mother who also had 2 younger daughters that had not been baptized yet. She asked that we teach them and, hopefully, baptize them, which we did. Probably one of the most incredible things ever. Elder Christensen and I learned a lot when we were teaching them. We learned how to teach the Gospel to younger children and also gave us a simpler mind of how the Gospel works and how it should be taught. It kind of gave us a perspective of how Christ would have taught it, since he did say that it is meant to be taught simply. I loved those little girls. I hope they are doing ok and still strong. 

2.  Who was the oldest?
The Oldest.....that's probably a tougher one. I've taught many older people a first lesson but never went to go back because they were never really interested. But there is an older man here that we have been meeting with. I think he's somewhere in his late 60's or early 70's. He's a swell guy, loves the Book of Mormon and has already finished it; we have just been working with him on how to apply the doctrine of what he's read into his life. 

3.  Do you have washers AND dryers there?  (Or do you have to hang your laundry all over the apartment to dry?)
We do have a washer in our apartment, which is nice not having to go every week and waiting to do our clothes, so we can do it whenever we want. But we don't have a dryers, so we have a drying rack that we have our clothes dry on. It's been like this my entire mission and it's been pretty lame because you don't have that nice soft feeling when clothes come out of the dryer. Probably one of the things that I'm really looking forward too when I come back. 

4. Do they have any unusual wildlife in Hungary (that we don’t see here?)
 Unusual wildlife......hedgehogs? Ha ha, I've seen a few on my mission, but that's really the only different animal that you see sometimes. 

5.  How often to you get to have dinner at member’s houses?
It depends on the city how many times you get fed a week. I think the most that I've been fed a week is....maybe 3-4 times? But it's ok, because it teaches me how to cook and prepare meals for myself. :P 
We ate Hurka this week. Look up what's in it, it'll make you quiver. (Hurka is a well known Hungarian water cooked sausage made originally from organ meats such as pork liver, lungs, head meat, rice and onions. Blood is sometimes added.)

6.  What are some popular European clothing trends that we may not have here? (We’ve noticed the suits are much more tailored.)
I think a popular trend is the haircuts here. Guys have pretty long hair on the top but shaved really thin on the sides. It's pretty funky; I may get it once before I leave to see what it looks like on me. Can't make any promises if it'll look good on me though, ha ha. Speaking of suits, I actually splurged yesterday when I was in Budapest and got myself another suit. I had to! We were there with some of the other missionaries and I saw a super nice blue one that I've always wanted to get and it was on sale for pretty cheap and I just gave in. It looks super nice! Similar to my other one, very European, but it's a tad bit shinier. I'll attach a picture for you guys to see. :)
My new European Suit (steal of a deal!)  What do you think?

7. Do you and your companion have any “games” you play as you go tracting or streeting?
 Right now we don't have any games that we have been playing. I've had in the past tallied how many doors we've had slammed in our face before. Ha ha, that one's always a funny one to tally up. 

Alrighty all, last but not least I'd like to give a shout out to Granny Colleen, being that her birthday was yesterday! Happy birthday!! I hope that South Africa is treating you well. :) Heather informed me that you were there. That must be super nice! And also, good luck to all you folks out there taking their finals. Glad I do not have to do those yet. :P But the day shall come! 

I love you all and I hope that you guys have a wonderful week! :D 

Magda Elder

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Teaching the Gospel is one of the best things to be doing!

December 10, 2013

Alright all, 

I am quite impressed with your following up with my quotes. Really 'I'm not even mad, I'm just impressed.' Let's see if you can keep up with this one for the week. (His family guessed correctly the last quote from “Zoolander.”)

'Just when I thought you couldn't possibly get any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!' 

Good luck! And' May the the odds be ever in your favor!'
View from a Castle

I'll start out with some of the questions that you have asked before I go more into some of the stuff that I have for you all. 

1.   Last week I asked what Hungarian’s eat for breakfast.  This week we want to know what YOU eat for breakfast.  (you were a big cereal guy here in the States....)  For breakfast...recently I have just been having jelly on toast and sometimes eggs. I have cereal sometimes from here and there, of course, but they don't have a very big variety sajnos (unfortunately). Today, though, we went to one of our investigators and they actually fed us pumpkin! Remember last year when I told you when I had it? Well, this time they actually seasoned it and put some sweetening in it, which was pretty nice. It actually was good. I was impressed. :)
Breathtaking view

2.  We know that in Hungary you drive on the same side of the road as in America, and that the road signs are random.....   What do most Hungarians use for transportation on a daily basis?  Feet?  Buses?  Trains?  Cars?  Bicycles?  On a daily basis, most people go by foot. Then it depends on the city whether they go more by bike or by bus. For example, in Pécs, most people just used the bus system because it was really nicely set up and it was big enough for people to rather use the buses. It was pretty convenient, as a matter of fact. I liked it. But in Békéscsaba, everyone just used bikes. It was crazy intense how many times I would almost run into people with my bike. There were sometimes traffic jams on bikes! Pretty crazy, huh? People use cars too, but it's not as common, and also in the bigger cities it's inconvenient. Interesting how different the world is over here.
Officially the "Highest part of Hungary" Monument
Hungary in December

3.  Do Hungarian families live several generations in one home? (mom, dad, kids, grandparents)     Hungarian families, in some cases, do live in the same home with a few generations. I've seen, pretty often, 3 generations in one home. Interesting, isn't it?
Friends we are teaching (who gave us this tour!)

4.  What are popular activities for the youth at the Hungarian Branches?  Popular activities for the youth in the branch.....mostly they have Játék Est (game night) each week, where we just play games and chill with some of the youth. But that's basically it, to be honest. Some places have other stuff, but Game night is what they all have in common. Just playing board games, ping pong and cracking jokes. 
Eger Branch Christmas Party
5.  Have you sung any Christmas Carols in Hungarian yet?  Which one is your favorite?  We are actually going to go caroling this week. It'll be nice, but at the same time, I'm not really excited about the doing it in the cold. I think my favorite, still, even in Hungarian, is Silent Night. I just love that song! Super good! I'll have to sing some hymns and stuff when I get back in Hungarian for you guys. It'll be super kewl. :)
What did you wish Blake? 

6.  What was the funniest thing that happened to you this week? The funniest thing that happened to me this week....I can't really say. Basically there was no one big moment, but Elder Gaytán and I laugh every day super hard! Ha ha, we just always have interesting quotes or little things that we say and we almost start roflmbo (rolling on the floor laughing my butt off) in the middle of streeting. We're super tight and we just have a jolly good time every day. 
Jolly Elves!

7.  What was the most inspiring thing that happened this week?  On a spiritual level, the most inspiring that that happened to me this week was just how the Spirit works through us. We have been recently meeting with a girl around our age and she is open to absolutely everything and is taking everything super well and is reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it also. But what has been unique to see is how the Spirit prompts us to say the things we are meant to say. Because there were times when my companion would start talking about something, which I didn't really think about talking about, but I just went with it, trusting that he was going to take the program in the right direction, and it totally worked at the end!  She understood it completely and I am so glad for what Elder Gaytán brought up and I had a great confirmation while he was talking to just pray for him while he was teaching and all went well.
Tour of  Castles

There's for sure a reason why we go in two's; both are able to receive revelation and if we are both in tune, then the Lord will use us in the way that he needs us. Also, today we were talking about the Plan of Salvation with this girl again, and when we brought up Jesus Christ and how the Atonement is crucial in the plan, I had the most empowering feeling throughout my whole body that what I was saying is true. It was incredible! I don't know if she felt it, but I totally felt it, and I hope she did as well. Those are the times when I have that great conformation that this is exactly what I'm meant to be doing. I love it so much! Teaching the Gospel is one of the best things to be doing. I hope that all of you have opportunities to go with the missionaries and teach with them. Probably one of the most powerful things is being in a room that is filled with the Spirit and being a part of such a program where the Gospel is taught.

It's going to be weird when I go home and this is something that I'm not going to be doing every day.  If the missionaries haven’t asked you to help them in your programs (lessons), go find them! And I, for one, can tell you in advance that if you do that they will be more than willing to find a day when you can help them. Ha ha, I don't think I've ever had that on my mission yet and if it does happen before the time I go home, that will be a moment for the books. :) Totally do it! 

So, I hope this email jabble was a good one. I have a bunch of pictures to send to you all, so hopefully that'll keep you all interested. One of the couples that we have been meeting with wanted to take us yesterday up to the highest peak in Hungary (which was right next to Eger basically) and we were able to see some castles on the way and enjoy the beauty of Hungary. Castles are so dang kewl!!!! That is something that we miss out on in America. So I hope you enjoy, because we sure did. :)

I love you all! Keep it real and 'Don't stop prrraaayin'!' 
Magda Elder